Senate eager to bond, House has shown no interest
Despite very little action occurring in the House and a bonding bill needing to originate there, the Senate Republicans have pressed forward on moving a bonding bill. The proposal is similar to the bill that was debated but not signed into law last session. However, this bill does not include language for Southwest Light Rail that was incorporated by amendment in last year’s proposal and it makes changes relative to how transportation is funded. In total, the bill supports $972.8 million in general fund supported debt and $1.613 billion in all funds.
While the proposal contains many important projects, there are several significant concerns with the proposal. Many legislators object to earmarking transportation projects within the proposal because it is a significant departure from how things have been traditionally done. Typically, the Minnesota Department of Transportation selects projects based on factors established by its professional staff. This proposal bypasses their expertise and selects projects based on other criteria determined by a group of legislators. Additionally, the proposal does not contain many projects that are needed to receive Governor Dayton’s approval. These projects include additional resources for higher education institutions, asset preservation for the Department of Natural Resources, and important public safety projects.
It is important to note that a bonding bill is dependent on the House Republicans passing a bill first because bills that raise revenue must originate in the House of Representatives. Once a bill is passed by the House, the bill will be sent to the Senate which will likely result in a conference committee. It is at this point, when the House, Senate, and Governor Dayton will attempt to negotiate a deal. (SF 210)